July 18, 2019 The Waterboys – Where the Action Is (Album Review)
The prolific Mike Scott—none other than the voice and soul of The Waterboys—has become even more prolific than ever. The collective that Scott formed in 1983, in Edinburgh, Scotland, has now 13 studio albums under its name—from that year’s self-titled oeuvre to the recently unleashed Where the Action Is.
Released on May 24th, 2019, on Cooking Vinyl Records, Where the Action Is may be regarded as the third installment to the trilogy of Folk/Country/Blues-oriented albums that Scott started in 2015 with Modern Blues and followed up in 2017 with the double-disc feat Out of All This Blue. Soon after its release, straightaway it reached No. 21 on the U.K. Albums Chart and No. 3 on the U.K. Independent Albums Chart.
Picking up where its predecessor has left off, Where the Action Is opens with the classic Rock-n-Roll sound of the title track. It is then followed by the more upbeat, double-time beat of “London Mick”—Scott’s homage to Punk Rock luminary Mick Jones of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite. The album’s mood then slows down to a romantic, bluesy predisposition as the subtly funky “Out of All This Blue” plays next—a likely outtake from The Waterboys’ last album of the same title.
The mid-tempo “Right Side of Heartbreak (Wrong Side of Love)” then struts coolly with its Heartland Rock swagger, standing out musically with its bouncy bass line and subtle Hammond-organ washes; it will fit well onto a playlist that includes Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia,” and Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway.” A further trek to acoustic-guitar territories then ensues in the form of “In My Time on Earth,” which may conjure an image of a somber Scott playing a sad Blues song at a lonely pub somewhere out there.
Scott then turns playful and cinematic with the Country/Jazz-tinged “Ladbroke Grove Symphony,” which sounds like a track from a ’70s Western movie. The ensuing “Take Me There I Will Follow You” is another Hip Hop/Dance-inspired song (complete with loops, raps, and scratches) that harks to some of the similarly styled tracks of Out of All This Blue. “And There’s Love” is another change of style and pace—eerie, strangely Country Gothic if there is such a hybrid, and definitely melodramatic; Scott is at his most romantic again. The penultimate track, the more fluid “Then She Made the Lasses O” flows flawlessly in the same groove as the previous one, featuring a hurdy-gurdy-sounding fiddle melody that makes it another ear-catching highlight of Where the Action Is.
Finally, Scott and the rest of The Waterboys—Steve Wickham (electric fiddle, mandolin), Ralph Salmins (drums), Paul Brown (keyboards), David Hood (bass), and Zach Ernst (lead guitar)—wraps up the action with the sweet, slow, soulful, and partly spoken, nine-minute epic “Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” which sounds like a remnant of 2011’s An Appointment with Mr. Yeats.
Truly a renaissance man, Scott continues to inject his musical art not only with an armory of various instruments—resulting in the band’s trademark eclectic and big sound—and relevant lyricism, but also with choice references from both Classic and Contemporary Literature. Where the Action Is is where The Waterboys’ action currently is— at the same time both rustic and modern, as well as simplistic yet anthemic, jocund but heartrending. Cryptic Rock gives it 4 out of 5 stars.